A New York City executive order underscoring the requirement that city agencies allow transgender persons to use any restroom they choose is among the latest round of cultural challenges to which believers are responding.
In other developments, Georgia’s Republican governor has suggested his opposition to a bill that would allow wedding vendors to decline service to same-sex couples based on religious convictions; Hawaii legislators are considering a proposal to ban licensed counselors from attempting to help minors overcome same-sex attraction; and Alabama’s Supreme Court dismissed a set of petitions requesting enforcement of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order March 7 that bans city employees from requesting identification or any other proof of gender before allowing individuals into public restrooms, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
The order applies to 55 municipal buildings, including locker rooms at pools and recreation centers, The Wall Street Journal reported. The city already had laws in place allowing transgender individuals to use any restrooms they chose at any public accommodation, according to NPR.
“Today’s order makes it clear that New York City fully supports the right of every New Yorker to use the single-sex facility consistent with their gender identity,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said according to his news release. “New York City is the birthplace of the fight for LGBT rights, and we continue to lead in that fight so every New Yorker can live with dignity.”
In addition to announcing the executive order, de Blasio’s release stated “that any employer, housing provider or public accommodation that denies access to bathroom or single sex facilities based on gender identity can be prosecuted for violation of the NYC Human Rights Law.”
Ray Parascando, pastor of Crossroads Church in the New York borough of Staten Island, told Baptist Press the city’s restroom policy places children at risk and exemplifies a pattern of “one-way tolerance” that discriminates against Christian beliefs and morals.
“You put children at risk, especially in parks, if you’re going to have somebody who thinks they’re a guy going into a little boys’ bathroom and vice versa,” Parascando said.
He dismissed as “misleading” a claim in the mayor’s news release that “law enforcement officials, government employees and domestic violence experts in 12 states that have laws prohibiting gender identity discrimination in accommodations have reported zero bathroom attacks.”
Parascando responded, “That study, like many of the numbers [the mayor’s office] puts out …, is misrepresenting” because there is no precedent of such a “widespread desire and initiative to change the organization of the bathrooms.” He speculated open access to restrooms in certain New York neighborhoods in particular likely would result in attacks.
Beyond safety concerns, Parascando said, “the mayor’s warrior policy” on issues related to homosexuality “is just encouraging … more confusion kids should not have to wrestle with at a young age. They shouldn’t have to learn about it by bathrooms.”
Crossroads has launched a campaign to promote sexual purity, Parascando said, “because I have parents who are telling me, ‘I need help.’ And these people aren’t saved. They’re in over their head because the culture is so darn perverse here.”
Transgender restroom policies have garnered attention in other states as well, NPR reported. South Dakota’s governor vetoed a bill March 1 that would have required public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms designed for their gender at birth. Houston voters overturned a nondiscrimination ordinance in November in part over concerns regarding restroom access. And in North Carolina, some legislators have expressed concern over a Charlotte ordinance that would lift restrictions on restroom access.
A 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution “on transgender identity” “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”
The resolution stated additionally, “We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel.”
In other cultural developments:
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Southern Baptist, has threatened to veto any legislation that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported March 3. Deal’s comments came as state legislators considered a bill that would allow business owners with sincerely held religious beliefs to decline participation in same-sex weddings.
“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” Deal said according to the AJC. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”
Proposed legislation in Hawaii on “sexual orientation change efforts” is under consideration by state lawmakers.
Hawaii Family Forum, a pro-family group, stated on its website the measure “would prohibit a licensed mental health practitioner in Hawaii from offering counseling or psychotherapy to a minor that has unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity confusion and seeks to resolve these feelings. It would also take away the rights of parents to choose a licensed mental health care provider for their children that is consistent with their religious and/or spiritual values, if their child wants to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions and/or gender identity confusion due to sexual abuse or confusion.”
An online petition circulated by Hawaii Family Forum called the bill “governmental intrusion” into the rights of families and asked legislators to reject it.
The Alabama Supreme Court issued a March 4 ruling that activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate claimed as a victory. The order dismissed all pending motions and petitions by conservatives who wanted the state’s gay marriage ban enforced but also included a concurring opinion by Chief Justice Roy Moore that argued state bans of same-sex marriage remain valid under the U.S. Constitution, The Washington Post reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)